A U.S. court order says the offspring of hippos once owned by Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar can be recognized as people with legal rights in the U.S.
The case involves a lawsuit against the Colombian government over whether to kill or sterilize the hippos whose numbers are growing at a fast pace.
The Associated Press reported that the "cocaine hippos" were left abandoned after Escobar died in a shootout with authorities in 1993. In the last eight years, the hippos have increased from 35 to between 65 and 80.
An animal rights group is hailing the order as a milestone victory in the long-sought effort to sway the U.S. justice system to grant animals personhood status.
But a legal expert in Colombia says the order won't carry any weight where the hippos live.
The AP reported that a government agency has begun to sterilize some of them.
The news outlet reported that a group of scientists believe the hippos could potentially threaten humans and the area’s biodiversity.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund told the AP that this could be the first time in U.S. history that animals have been declared legal persons.